At The Feet of (Jesus) The Light

“As Jesus and his disciples were on their way, he came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to him. She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what he said. But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She came to him and asked, “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me! “Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, but few things are needed—or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.”  -Luke 10:38-42

 

Located on the highest cliff of Ona, a tiny island in Norway, you’ll find this beautiful ruby red beacon known as the Ona Lighthouse. Built in 1867, it stands 48 ft. tall and overlooks a small village of no more than 25-30 inhabitants. At the foot of this tower, you’ll find a cluster of brightly colored wooden houses that help create an indisputable peaceful and tranquil scene.

When I contemplate the serenity depicted in this image it almost seems as if the houses are gathered attentively around the lighthouse waiting for its light to shine; the light that will reassure them that they will be kept safe from the dangers of misguided nocturnal sea vessels. Then, I am instantly reminded of Mary sitting at the feet of Jesus.

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Like Martha, we have all experienced the pressures of the daily cares of life. The demands of school, work, church, and family will occasionally gobble up most of our time and attention.1 Book reports due, projects to complete, lessons to prepare, house to clean and baseball practices to attend. No doubt that these responsibilities constitute an important part of our lives. However, they can become detrimental to our overall well-being if we allow them to overwhelm us and overshadow the more important things, like physical and spiritual disciplines and quality family time. But the truth is that most of us already know this. We have been convicted of it many times before. We’ve felt guilty about it and we’ve told ourselves that it’s time to make a change, but unconsciously we get sucked back into the routine of meeting deadlines, giving in to our OCDs and thinking that the world will collapse if we stop (even if just for a moment) to sit down and catch our breath.

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Like Mary, we all need to take a break and sit at the feet of Jesus every now and then. No, I don’t mean sitting in a church pew, or even behind a computer or phone screen scrolling through inspirational quotes and devotions. I’m not even referring to a routine devotional time. Even when doing these things we sometimes miss what God is trying to tell us simply because we are either on a time schedule, fulfilling another duty, just “kicking off our shoes” or simply going through the motions. What I mean is that we have to take the time to get away and wholeheartedly immerse ourselves in His grace [Read Escaping Not “From” But “Into]. Time to intentionally contemplate and appreciate His handiwork; the earth, the heavens, and the intricacies of the human body [Read Fearfully and Wonderfully Designed]. Time to deeply reflect on how the stripes that were on His body have completely healed us from the ill-effects of sin.2 (Quite frankly, we should be doing this one more regularly instead of once a year during the “holy week.”) And we should also take time to just sit down quietly and give Him our undivided attention. Perhaps this is the only time He has to tell us how much we truly mean to Him. This doesn’t mean that we carelessly ignore our responsibilities as Martha thought Mary was doing. There has to be a balance between work and leisure in order for us to be effective and productive as Christians and as citizens in general. The key to obtaining this balance is discerning, like Mary, when it’s time to pursue “what is better.” In other words, we should know when it’s time to put the book down, take our hand off the mouse, or turn off the vacuum cleaner and take care of what is more important. Maybe it’s time to redo our priority list.  

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To manage life properly we need order, direction, encouragement, and support. God provides all of these through His word, sermons, blogs, songs, and through godly counsel. But He also accomplishes it through the gentle whisper of an undisturbed quiet time at the feet of Jesus.

There are two other interesting facts about Ona that serve as an excellent Gospel analogy. The relatively small island has been populated for centuries because of its proximity to the fishing expanse close to the Atlantic Ocean. For this reason, fishing has traditionally been the only source of income for its inhabitants. However, the island has recently attracted a few pottery makers who have also made little Ona their home.

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This reminds me that at the feet of Jesus, we can also find the motivation and passion we need to become effective fishers of men.3 Every heartbeat of our Savior has a name; the name of every soul who is yet to be saved. If we listen closely we’ll hear their cry and be encouraged to reach out to them with the Gospel.

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At the feet of the Master Potter, 4 we also learn how we can help Him mold the clay He has placed on the wheel by following the Great commission and making fully devoted disciples of Jesus Christ.5

I am not sure about you, but I am ready to spend some time at the feet of Jesus and listen to what He’s been trying to tell me. How about you? 

Prayer: Lord Jesus, there is no other place I rather be than at your feet. In the midst of the hustle and bustle of life quicken me to stop and listen to what you have to say. Thank you for the privilege of being able to be in your presence and listen to your heartbeat; the heartbeat for a lost and dying world to which you have called me to shine the light of your Gospel. I pray this in you precious name, amen. 

SCRIPTURE REFERENCES
1- “…but the worries of this life, the deceitfulness of wealth and the desires for other things come in and choke the word, making it unfruitful.”  – Mark 4:19
2- “But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed.” – Isaih 53:5
3- “And he said to them, “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.” – Matthew 4:19 (ESV)
4- “Yet you, LORD, are our Father. We are the clay, you are the potter; we are all the work of your hand..” – Isaiah 64:8
5- “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey all that I have commanded you.” -Matthew 28:19-20
-ALL SCRIPTURE IS QUOTED FROM THE NIV EXCEPT WHERE SPECIFIED.

Brokenness Brings Strength

And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast. – The Apostle Peter

What do storms, earthquakes, wars, erosion and rotten wood have in common? For one, they have been the leading cause for the reconstruction and/or relocation of many lighthouses throughout the world. In the early years of lighthouses, people used whatever materials were available locally to build them: wood, brick, and stone. And while these life-saving towers were successful in warning and guiding mariners to safety, they only lasted until their next big battle against man or nature. Many of them had to be rebuilt more than once, but with the advancements in technology and engineering not only where they made stronger but lasted a lot longer. A few of these “saviors of the seacoast” are still standing. Some for more than 200 years!

Located on Little Brewster Island in Massachusetts, the Boston Light (pictured above) is the first of American lighthouses. Originally built in 1716, the tower is older than the republic itself. It is one of the many lighthouses to overcome several calamities and still stand tall and strong. The tower first suffered its major disaster in 1775 when Minutemen set fire to it in retaliation against a British blockade. Although it was quickly repaired, the tower was destroyed by gunpowder the following year.

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C. early 1780s, from a painting by Capt. Matthew Parke. This image apparently depicts the original tower before its 1776 destruction.

The present tower was rebuilt in 1783 to its original height of 75 ft. and in 1856 it was raised another 23 ft. One can only imagine the punishment that this and other lighthouses have faced given their location. Exposed not only to inclement weather and the elements of the sea but to intentional damage as well, they have truly endured the test of time. Many of them, like the Boston Light, have undergone a series of renovations and restorations to fortify their structure and preserve them for posterity. Today, Boston Light and many others are still standing and shining their light as a symbol of perseverance, strength, and commitment.

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Imagine giving up on a project simply because it initially broke down. If that was the norm, we wouldn’t have the vacuum cleaner, the automobile, the light bulb, the airplane, or even the life-saving sentinel of the sea a.k.a. the lighthouse. Failure and brokenness are inevitable in life. And while they may normally be regarded as setbacks, they are actually the first step to success. Plus, they grant the opportunity to start over again more intelligently. Failures have inspired the greatest inventions. Brokenness has helped build the strongest of armies.

Perfection can only be found in God. And while He created man in His image and likeness (the ability to commune with God, to reason, and to choose) sin put a spiritual wedge between man and His Creator. It broke the perfect fellowship/intimacy that they once enjoyed before the fall. Hence why Jesus came.

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The brokenness caused by original sin can be immediately repaired through repentance and the acceptance of Christ’s redemptive work on the cross. However, because we are still in a mortal body and are part of a fallen world we have yet to experience the fullness of that redemption; the day when all sin is eradicated forever.  Until then, we will face many battles with temptation, sickness, the consequences of disobeying God, and even persecution.

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Like the many lighthouses that fell apart due to the forces of nature, there will be times when we too will be broken by life’s adversities. But, we can also be restored and emerge stronger than before. Through His word and the presence of the Holy Spirit in our lives, God can rebuild that which has been broken by trials and by sins (of commission and omission). And that which God himself repairs will stand exceedingly greater than that which stood before it was broken. Therefore, the most distressing brokenness we can ever experience can actually help us become significantly stronger in character and in faith.

The key to remain standing in the midst of our brokenness is to keep in mind who we are and what our calling is in Christ. Jesus said, “You ARE the light of the world.” In spite of the storms of discouragement, wars of opposition, earthquakes of fear, erosions of uncertainty, and all other challenges we may face in life, we ought to continue shining as lighthouses for God.

When our foundation is built on the Rock (Jesus) He is the melody in times of peace, the anchor in the midst of the storm, and the mender when we are broken. His restorative touch not only rebuilds our faith but increases our resolve to persevere. So, keep your eyes on Jesus, trust His word, depend on His faithfulness, and remember that He can use brokenness to bring strength; strength that can serve as an encouragement to others who are broken. 

Prayer: Mender of the broken, Healer of my soul, I call upon you today and ask that you touch me. Strengthen me in the hour of my need so that I may continue to shine brightly for your glory. In the midst of my brokenness I will praise you and know that once I am restored I will be stronger than ever before. In the precious name of Jesus, I pray, amen. 

SCRIPTURE REFERENCES
“And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast.” -1 Pet. 5:10
“He heals the brokenhearted And binds up their wounds.” -Psalm 147:3
“For I will restore health to you, and your wounds I will heal, declares the Lord…” -Jeremiah 30:17 (ESV)
“And the Lord restored the fortunes of Job, when he had prayed for his friends. And the Lord gave Job twice as much as he had before.” -Job 42:10, ESV
“I will bring that group through the fire and make them pure. I will refine them like silver and purify them like gold. They will call on my name, and I will answer them. I will say, ‘These are my people,’ and they will say, ‘The LORD is our God.'” -Zachariah 13:9 (NLT)
“In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer various trials, 7so that the authenticity of your faith — more precious than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire — may result in praise, glory, and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.” -1 Peter 1:6-7 (BSB)
-ALL SCRIPTURE IS QUOTED FROM THE NIV EXCEPT WHERE SPECIFIED.

1 Year Anniversary. Thank you!

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Today, April 6, 2017, marks one year of publishing Lighthouse Devotions on WordPress. A big “THANK YOU” to all my followers and those who have read, commented on, and shared my posts. I’ve been greatly blessed with the privilege of writing 58 lighthouse inspired devotions this past year. I am looking forward to writing many more and publishing a devotions book in the near future. Let us keep shining the light of Jesus!

The Dangers of ‘Ear Candy’ Lighthouses

For a time is coming when people will no longer listen to sound and wholesome teaching. They will follow their own desires and will look for teachers who will tell them whatever their itching ears want to hear. – The Apostle Paul to Timothy

Most likely you’ve heard of or seen a gingerbread house, but have you ever seen a gingerbread lighthouse!? You can imagine the smile on my face as I stumbled upon this magnificent confection. Gingerbread houses can be traced back to 1800’s Germany. Many food historians agree that they were made popular as a result of the famous Brothers Grimm’s fairy tale, Hansel and Gretel.  During the 19th-century mass waves of immigration, many gingerbread house-making Germans moved to the US.  Since then, these creative treats have become part of the Amercian Christmas tradition. 

Every year I look forward to making and savoring some of the most delectable traditional holiday dishes of my Carribean culture. And though I have lived in the US mainland for over 30 years, I honestly never thought of incorporating the popular gingerbread house to my Christmas menu. Up until now, that is. As a lighthouse aficionado, you can rest assure that I will be designing my very first gingerbread lighthouse this Holiday season. 

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fastnet rock lh by birgit seibert

Are you familiar with the term “eye candy”? It’s a term commonly used to describe that which is appealing to the sight, something that tempts us with its addictive visual. For example, glittering night lights, a seemingly endless buffet, colorful natural scenes, a bountiful display of sweets, and even titillating billboards can all be considered eye candy.

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How about the term “ear candy”? Well, that is what we call the all-inclusive, non-judgemental, non-offensive, “it’s all about you” messages coming from many pulpits today, especially in the West.  These are the messages that are meant to attract large audiences by pleasing their ears with motivational speeches loaded with self-reassurance, positive thinking, and “name it and claim it” theology. While their content is socially relevant, their effect is spiritually devastating. They ultimately weaken, rather than empower, God’s people by perpetuating instead of breaking spiritual bondages. 

Churches are like lighthouses. They are to emit the light of Christ by inviting and guiding lost souls with the unadulterated word of God. But many houses of worship are slowly becoming spiritual coffee parlors and narcissistic social centers that condone immoral behavior and encourage selfish entitlement. All in the name of love and unity. However, it’s not that difficult to conclude that the main reason is to increase and secure financial support. Instead of preparing fully devoted disciples of Jesus Christ, these ear candy gospel lighthouses are producing malnourished religious marionettes.

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Harsh isn’t it? This is definitely not the typical inspirational and encouraging devotion you are used to reading from me. But as a soul-loving minister and a protective father of three, I believe that encouragement also comes in the form of admonition and rebuke. I am greatly troubled by the growing number of churches that are leading souls deeper into darkness instead of guiding them to the saving light of Christ. It would be irresponsible of me to only write about the encouraging characteristics of effective lighthouses and not mention the detrimental effects of the ineffective ones.

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Just as gingerbread houses taste sweet to the lips, the gospel messages preached in many of today’s churches are sweet to the ears. They cause the hearers to feel good and want more but never challenge them or help them to grow stronger in their relationship with a holy God. Instead of well-cooked meat to strengthen the soul, ear candy messages have become the main course of spiritual diets. Very few preachers, especially those on TV, talk about repentance toward God because that presupposes sin and “sin” has become a politically incorrect word in our society.  The word “sin” makes people feel uncomfortable. It is judgemental and offensive, so “ministers” just exclude it from their inspirational speeches.

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They steer clear from teaching about faith in Christ alone because it is a much too narrow road to travel upon. They believe that people need a broader spiritual path to cruise comfortably without being hurt or offended. So, faith in the individual self or in some other ideal that promises a better, healthier, wealthier life is more inviting than faith in a character that warns of inevitable troubles as a result of following Him.  They certainly won’t talk about repentance because that suggests that people are not living right and need to change. And why change when God loves us just the way we are? This ear scratching gospel is what is leading people straight to hell while they sit in churches or in front of TV screens week after week being inspired instead of being transformed. 

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Part of the body of Jesus Christ is anemic and slowly dying as a result of sugar-coated sermons. It’s time to do away with these poisonous sweets! Time to crumble the gingerbread lighthouses and build strong Holy Spirit reinforced beacons of hope. Time to do as the Apostle Paul said and “…demolish all arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.” The Gospel is more than a message of hope, peace, and love. It is also a call to repentance and transformation. A call to mature spiritually through godly disciplines and many faith-trying challenges. Jesus warned His followers of the imminent dangers they would have to face as a result of believing in Him. He said they would be hated, persecuted, imprisoned and even put to death. Many of them were and many still do!

Jesus himself had no qualms when addressing the issue of sin, especially religious hypocrisy. His zeal for proclaiming the truth of God’s kingdom drove him to say and do things that were considered blasphemous and even criminal. At his trial before Pilate, the main charge against Him was brought on by religious leaders. After actually trying the case, Pilate found no fault in Jesus. However, if tried today, He would most certainly be charged with hate crime, harassment, peace disturbance, and vandalism, among others.

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Believers in Jesus Christ are called to obey God, but also to submit to earthly authority. However, our commitment to honor and respect man-made laws should not keep us from declaring and obeying the Spirit-inspired word of God. Nor should it cause us to compromise the truth therein. Regardless of the opposition we may face from a dissenting crowd, we should never alter the message of the Gospel in order to please people, gain their acceptance, or even avoid conflict. Remember, Jesus’ teachings were not popular in his times nor have they been ever since. They frequently rubbed some people the wrong way.  In fact, that is exactly why they had him crucified!  Yet, what He taught by word and by example is what has and will continue to change countless lives and guarantee them a place with Him in heaven forever. 

So church, let’s quit trying to attract men to Christ by becoming ear candy lights. Let us restore the law of God to its rightful place by being straight forward about what separates man from his Creator, namely sin. Then let us offer the solution to restore that relationship by preaching salvation by grace through faith in Christ alone. But we must not stop there. We must also help believers grow spiritually by teaching sound biblical doctrines. And we must encourage them to pursue holiness by living according to God’s precepts and not their own. 

Prayer: Heavenly Father, I believe the Gospel of your Son is power unto Salvation. Help me Lord, to live by and share this truth to all who are lost without eternal hope. Don’t let me become or be a part of an ear candy lighthouse. Help me to remain a strong tower so that I may shine the life-changing light of the true Gospel wherever I go. In Jesus name I pray, amen. 

SCRIPTURE REFERENCES
“For a time is coming when people will no longer listen to sound and wholesome teaching. They will follow their own desires and will look for teachers who will tell them whatever their itching ears want to hear.” – 2 Timothy 4:3
“But understand this: In the last days terrible times will come. For men will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, unloving, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, without love of good, traitorous, reckless, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having a form of godliness but denying its power. Turn away from such as these!” -2 Timothy 3:1-5 (BSB)
“We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.” -2 Corinthians 10:5
“Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established.” -Romans 13:1
“Joyful are people of integrity, who follow the instructions of the Lord. Joyful are those who obey his laws and search for him with all their hearts. They do not compromise with evil, and they walk only in his paths.  You have charged us to keep your commandments carefully.” -Psalm 119:1-4 (NLT)
-ALL SCRIPTURE IS QUOTED FROM THE NIV EXCEPT WHERE SPECIFIED.

A Conforming Light

For unto those whom he knew beforehand, he also marked out beforehand the way that they might be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren. – The Apostle Paul (Romans 8:29, JB2000)

Pictured above is the Fastnet Rock Lighthouse. It was constructed in 1899 on Fastnet Rock, a slate-granite islet in the southern coast of County Cork, Ireland. This granite tower which measures 177 feet (the tallest in Ireland) was built to replace the previous cast iron one erected in 1853. You can still see part of the original lighthouse’s base on the highest part of the rock. Fastnet Rock is also known as The Teardrop of Ireland because it was the last piece of land that Irish emigrants saw as they sailed away to the New World.

Due to its location, the topography of the islet, and the amount of granite needed for its construction, this lighthouse is considered one of the greatest feats of its time. It actually took 8 years to complete!

A quick glance at this lighthouse today and one would think that it is part of the islet itself. Not only are their colors and shades strikingly similar, but so is their texture. The natural rock formation was obviously there before the lighthouse. In fact, the area where the tower now sits had to be leveled prior to setting its foundation. During its early years, the unweathered lighthouse was completely white.  It was once compared to “a beautiful bride on her wedding day in a lovely lace dress.” Unfortunately, the same battering waves, inclement weather, and resilient marine algae that have stricken the very small island over the years have taken their toll on the towering beacon. They have caused its base to change color and now it resembles the rocks around it.

Scriptures declare that even before we were created, God had already planned to conform us to the image of His Son.¹ This process actually begins with our confession of Christ as Lord and Savior. And while it is entirely a work of the Holy Spirit (through sanctification),² our job is to submit to His leading and respond in obedience to God’s word. In other words, God imparts to us a new nature the moment we place our faith in Jesus. He then continues to cleanse, purify, and renew us through our commitment to spiritual disciplines (prayer, fasting, bible study, worship, fellowship, witnessing). The result is an ongoing inner transformation that allows us to conform (become similar in character) to the person of Jesus Christ. 

HNY17Persecution caused many of the early followers of Jesus to be scattered throughout Judaea and Samaria. Some of them traveled as far as Phoenicia and Cyprus, but it was at Antioch that they were first called Christians because their behavior, activity, and speech were like Christ.3 Contrary to what some teach, the word Christian does not mean “little Christ.” That idea erroneously suggests that we are diminutive copies or duplicates of Christ. “Christian” actually derives from the Greek word Christianos,. which is a combination of Christos (anointed, messiah) and ianos, a suffix denoting adhering or belonging to and commonly applied to slaves.

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We are not called to morph into small Jesuses. We are called to be “like” Him. To be a Christian simply means to choose to believe in, submit to, and obey Jesus’ teachings, and strive to live as He did. It is important to understand, however, that living like Jesus does not save us. Amidst all the chaos, feuding, and acts of hate and evil, the world is filled with “good” people. But generosity, kindness, compassion and even religious traditions do not automatically grant anyone access to heaven. If it were so, then the entire Bible and the Christian theology would be false and useless. But the irrefutable, inerrant, and life-changing word of God declares that salvation is through faith in Christ and Him alone.4 That same faith allows God’s Spirit to work in us and compels us to follow in the footstep of our Savior. Good works are a result of salvation, not vice versa. Jesus is the Rock of our salvation. If we remain firmly anchored in Him we eventually begin to live, love, act, and react like He did while on earth. That is, we slowly conform to His likeness, pretty much like the Fastnet Rock Lighthouse has been conforming to the image of the rock upon which it stands.

Becoming like Christ may seem like an impossible task at times,  especially when we have to face difficult and unexpected challenges in our lives. But let us not lose heart and trust that if Jesus himself prayed that we would become one with Him as He is one with the Father,5 then God is most definitely involved in the process. Plus, we have been given all the tools necessary to help us. The change begins on the inside in our spirit being where we are made right with God the moment we accept Jesus in our hearts. Then, through obedience to God’s word, it slowly begins to shape our way of thinking making itself evident on the outside in the way we live day by day. In fact, it should even shape the way we treat our physical bodies for it becomes the temple of the Holy Spirit.6 So remember, spiritual re-birth is just the beginning. Remaining in Christ and His word is what helps us in the process of becoming A Conforming Light.

Prayer: Lord Jesus, you are the Rock upon which I stand. Thank you for the sanctifying work you are doing in me. Help me to stay committed to your word so that I may continue to conform more and more to your likeness. I surrender to the leading of your Holy Spirt. For it is my desire to reflect you and the light you brought into the world every day of my life. This I pray in your precious name, amen. 

SCRIPTURE REFERENCES
1 “For unto those whom he knew beforehand, he also marked out beforehand the way that they might be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren.” – Romans 8:29, (JB2000)
2 “[The elect who are] chosen by the foreknowledge of God the Father and sanctified by the Spirit for obedience to Jesus Christ…” -1 Peter 1:2 
3 “…and when he had found him, he brought him to Antioch. For a whole year they met with the church and taught a great many people. And in Antioch the disciples were first called Christians.” Acts 11:26 (ESV)
4 ” Salvation is found in no one else [but Jesus], for there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved.” – Acts 4:12
5 “I am not asking on behalf of them alone, but also on behalf of those who will believe in Me through their message, that all of them may be one, as You, Father, are in Me, and I am in You…” -John17:21
6 “Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore glorify God with your body.” – 1 Corinthians 6:19-20 (BSB)
-ALL SCRIPTURE IS QUOTED FROM THE NIV EXCEPT WHERE SPECIFIED.

Escaping Not “From,” But “Into”

“And when he had sent the multitudes away, he went up into a mountain apart to pray and when the evening was come he was there alone.” – Matthew 14:23

There are quite a number of lighthouses located offshore that were built upon either dangerous shoals, reefs, or submerged islands several miles away from land. But at 25 miles from the nearest shore, The Stannard Rock Light (pictured above) is the most distant lighthouse in the United States. Built in 1883, this 100 ft. tower was named after Captain Charles C. Stannard, who first discovered the underwater rock formation in 1835. Because of its remote location, it was designated a “stag light, ” which meant that only men (without families) could serve as light keepers. If someone got sick or there was an emergency of any kind at the light, it would take weeks before anyone could arrive with assistance! After warning mariners of the treacherous reefs for over 100 years, the tower was finally retired in 2008. It is now used for climate research purposes. 

 Have you ever wanted to just get away from it all – I mean, very far away? To escape to somewhere quiet and peaceful where you could take a walk, read a book, or just vegetate without being interrupted? 

 How about escaping to a place where you could pray, meditate, read God’s word, or just marvel at His creation? 

 We all need to take (not make) time to separate ourselves from the “world” and come closer to heaven. A time to not only lay our burdens down at the foot of the cross but to receive new strength from the very throne of God. A place to experience a truly intimate moment with our Heavenly Father. 

At times life can simply become too much. The cares, interactions, expectations and demands of our daily lives can drain us to the point of physical, emotional and even spiritual exhaustion. Stress can easily turn the peaceful, exciting and inspiring wonders around us into a war-like zone where everything is but beautiful. Life becomes more like a static TV Screen; a noise from which we desperately need to escape to alleviate the heaviness.

Jesus identified with every human emotion, including stress. After spending hours teaching, listening, touching, healing and comforting people he longed for a time to just relax. A time to recuperate both physically and emotionally. For Jesus, it was mostly about giving and meeting people’s needs. However, there was no one to give to him and meet his needs, no one except His Father in heaven that is. The difference with Jesus is that he had no problem in stepping away from the stresses of ministry and into a quiet place where all noise could be muffled. That quiet place was in the presence of God the Father.

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We may be able to temporarily separate ourselves from the world around us, but rarely, if at all possible, do we find a place to be absolutely and completely apart from the noise. Such a place is not to escape from something, but rather into Someone. It is a place where we can leave the world and its noise behind and meet with our Father, just as Jesus did; a time to truly PRAY. Do you know of such a place? A place where you can escape into God’s presence and spend uninterrupted time with Him? Perhaps for many of us, such a place may be a spare room in the house/apartment, a bench at the park, or at a church altar. Regardless, I believe God is calling his children to escape into Him more frequently. If you believe that calling is for you, then take the time to escape. I guarantee life will become a lot less stressful. 

Prayer: Lord, when all around me captures my soul and imprisons my time, my heart and my energies help me find and run to a place far away, where it’s just you and me. In Jesus name I pray, amen.

SCRIPTURE REFERENCES

“But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.” -Matthew 6:6
“Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed.” – Mark 1:35
“But he [Jesus] would withdraw to desolate places and pray.” -Luke 5:16 (ESV)
And He said to them, “Come away by yourselves to a secluded place and rest a while.” -Mark 6:31 (NASB)
-ALL SCRIPTURE IS QUOTED FROM THE NIV EXCEPT WHERE SPECIFIED.

Photo Credit
Jesus at Gethsemane – The Passion of the Christ (movie scene)
Note:
This is a revised version of my  devotion, “Take Time to Pray“published on January 2013 by Patch.com

The Perfect Retirement

Pictured above is the Point Reyes Lighthouse. It was built in 1870 on the windiest and second foggiest place in North America, the Point Reyes headlands, which are located about 10 miles from the San Francisco Bay area in California.  This incredibly well-constructed lighthouse has endured many hardships, including an earthquake in 1906, which displaced it 18 feet from its original location in less than one minute! After fulfilling its life-saving duties for 105 years, and like most lighthouses still standing, this beacon was retired as a result of the advancements in navigation technology. Many retired lighthouses in the U.S. have been either sold or donated to local municipalities and private organizations who then renovate them and make them available for public touring. Unfortunately, some of them have been left unattended and are slowly rotting away.

Retirement (noun)
a. the period after you have permanently stopped your job or profession.
b. removal of something from service or use.

Are you retired already or are you looking forward to that big day? Perhaps you’ve practically just entered the workforce and have a very long way to go. Either way, retirement is a life event which you will have to plan for and the sooner you do it, the better.

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For most people, retirement is both a time of completion and a time of new beginnings. Not everyone who retires gets to fulfill their life-long dream(s), but they all get a chance to finally end one chapter in the storybook of life and begin a new one. They also get a chance to sit back and reminisce about the gratifying (and the regrettable) moments they experienced while employed. If you haven’t done this already then you and I will both have an opportunity to do so at some point in the future. That is if we haven’t been called into eternity before then.

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Some people say they don’t plan to retire at all. They want to be able to work until the very end. By that, I suppose they mean till death comes knocking at their door. Such attitude is both honorable and commendable, especially if it means working for an evangelistic or humanitarian cause. But perhaps staying laboriously active until your last breath is not an option you’ve considered. You are probably among those who are looking forward to the day when you no longer have to wake up to go to “work.” If so, then what would you consider to be the perfect retirement? For me, it would begin with a trip around the world visiting as many lighthouses as possible while taking detours to explore the beauty of God’s creation. I would eventually come back home to take my daily morning walks with my dog along the beautiful flower path that leads to my private oceanfront lighthouse. Here, I would be able to pray, meditate, and be inspired to keep writing my Lighthouse Devotions without interruptions, except for when my wife shows up with a hot cup of Chai Latte and a slice of cheesecake.

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Speaking of perfect retirement, here are some of the images that came up as a result of a Google search for “perfect” or “dream” retirements. [click to enlarge]

Maybe your idea of a perfect retirement is similar to one of the images above or perhaps it’s something even more fascinating. It may even be something that others would not consider to be a retirement at all. But regardless of what you and I may think a truly peaceful and fulfilling retirement is, NOTHING compares with the retirement that our Heavenly Father has prepared for those who love Him. For those who have accepted His Son as Savior and have finished their pilgrimage through the heavy-laden path of life. And while we may be able to reap some of the benefits of laboring for His kingdom here on earth, our ultimate recompense will be when we finally hear the words, “Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master.

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As I sit down to pen this devotion I can’t help but think of an old (Spanish) song I use to sing at church during my early teen years. “Mas allá del sol, mas allá del sol.  Yo tengo un hogar, bello hogar mas allá del sol. ” (Beyond the sun, beyond the sun. I have a home, a beautiful home beyond the sun.)

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Not only beyond the sun but beyond anything we could ever imagine is that place where the redeemed of the Lord will one day retire for all eternity. Forget about no more toiling, how about no more dying, no more crying, and no more pain? And it doesn’t matter whether or not you get to stroll along white sandy beaches that overlook turquoise waters, how about basking in the glory of God while walking tirelessly through a street made of gold so pure that it resembles a sea of clear glass? Just think, the world’s most beautiful and costliest structure cannot compare to the splendor of the golden city that is adorned with every precious stone imaginable. A city that has 12 breathtaking gates, each fashioned from a single pearl! Even the most luxuriant earthly landscapes are no match to the beauty of the river of the water of life which flows from the throne of God or the tree of life whose leaves will serve for the healing of the nations. This is the place where Paul and all of God’s children will finally receive their retirement crown. This is the place that Jesus said He would go to prepare for us so that we could be with Him. This, undoubtedly, is THE perfect retirement!

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Until the day we get to retire for all eternity, we must count it a privilege and an honor to be (or have been) able to work.  And when/if the day of our earthly retirement does come, whether we choose to keep working or live a life of leisure, we should embrace it with a sense of fulfillment, gratitude, and joy. I surely wouldn’t mind spending the rest of my retired years visiting lighthouses and writing about them in my very own cozy beacon by the sea. Hopefully, one of these will be available for sale by then! [click on images to enlarge]

Prayer: Oh God, Maker of heaven and earth, I look forward to the day when I am retired to be with you. The day when I enter my eternal rest along with all the redeemed of the Lord. Until that day, help me to remain faithful and strong in my faith. Renew me physically, mentally, and spiritually, so that I may continue to shine your light until the day when your glory is the only light shining. 

SCRIPTURE REFERENCES
“Then I heard a voice from heaven say, “Write this: Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on.” “Yes,” says the Spirit, “they will rest from their labor, for their deeds will follow them.” -Revelations 14:13
“Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master.” – Matthew 25:21 (ESV)
“But I do not account my life of any value nor as precious to myself, if only I may finish my course and the ministry that I received from the Lord Jesus…” Acts 20:24 (ESV)
“God is not unjust; he will not forget your work and the love you have shown him as you have helped his people and continue to help them.” -Hebrews 6:10
“My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am. You know the way to the place where I am going.” -John 14:2-4 (ESV)
“Then the angel showed me a river of the water of life, as clear as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb, 2down the middle of the main street of the city. On either side of the river stood a tree of life, producing twelve kinds of fruit and yielding a fresh crop for each month. And the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations.”-Revelation 22:1-2
“And the city has no need for sun or moon to shine on it, because the glory of God illuminates the city, and the Lamb is its lamp. 24By its light the nations will walk, and into it the kings of the earth will bring their glory.” -Revelations 21:23-24 (BSB)
-ALL SCRIPTURE IS QUOTED FROM THE NIV EXCEPT WHERE SPECIFIED.
ADDITIONAL LINKS
A Vision of Heaven – Revelation 21
IMAGE CREDITS
© Point Reyes Lighthouse by Frank Schulenburg, April 2012
The Lighthouse Keeper, Dalmatian, by Donna Gelsinger

 

Be a Lightship For a Change

You’ve heard of lighthouses, but have you heard of or ever seen a lightship? If you have, then you are more of an aficionado than I am or you are just simply blessed. I didn’t even know such things existed. Pictured above is one of several lightships still in existence.

Lightships are vessels that were built to act as substitute lighthouse towers to assist other imag4534_1ships in navigation. They were stationed in areas where either the waters were too deep, weather conditions were volatile, and/or where the lack of solid grounds made it impossible to build an actual lighthouse. The first lightship to be put in operation was the Nore Sandbank. It was placed at the mouth of the Thames River in England back in 1734. Eventually, advancements in marine construction and architecture gave way to modern lighthouses which greatly limited the need for these lightvessels. About 15 lightships can still be found in different parts of the U.S. today.

In my search for inspiration, I have come across some pretty fascinating lighthouses. From the tallest to the smallest and from the oldest to the most modern-styled, I have been intrigued by the designs and the stories behind some of the most amazing sentinels of the sea. Up until now,  I always thought of a lighthouse as a stationary tower built upon an unmovable foundation. That is why my muse was immediately awakened when I stumbled upon these mobile beacons known as lightships.

As spiritual lighthouses, we were made to shine God’s light for all to see. Therefore, we shouldn’t limit its radiance to our immediate surroundings only. How about we intentionally navigate into the treacherous seas of humanity to bring His light to those who are in deep troubled waters? In other words, how about we go beyond our churches, homes, workplaces, and neighborhoods and venture into the ghettos, prisons, and unevangelized territories to be the saving light Jesus called us to be? We may not all be called to pack our bags and head to the jungles of Guatemala or the tribal plains of Africa, but we can all join or organize a group that will act as lightships to sail towards those who desperately need to hear the Gospel and witness the love of God through our acts of generosity and compassion.

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I’ve heard it say that our mission field is found right in our community, but I beg to differ. The term “convenience” can be applied not only to those local stores where one can readily find staples at any given time but also to places we frequently visit like medical clinics, schools, shopping centers, restaurants, parks, etc. Because of our familiarity with these places, we most likely trivialize our responsibility towards the Great Commission. I believe that when Jesus said, “Go into all the world…” He meant just that. To go into places that are unfamiliar, remote, places outside our convenience. And we can all fulfill that command by getting rid of our lame excuses, allowing God’s word to change our selfish attitudes, and step out in faith and obedience to go and make disciples. Paul encouraged us to tend not only to our own needs but also to the needs of others. But we won’t always know what the needs of others are unless we leave our comfortable shores and navigate towards the deep waters of this world where the destitute and those who are ignorant of the Gospel message are sailing aimlessly and without hope.

Jesus said that the poor will always be among us. And until this world is finally redeemed there will also be those who have yet to hear the Good News of salvation. So, how about asking God for the opportunity to be a lightship for a change? How about you continue to shine right where you are, but every once in a while step out and “go” take that light to places that others would purposely avoid?

Prayer: Oh Lord God, stir my heart with the desire to shine your light beyond my immediate surroundings. Allow me to navigate towards the deep waters where souls are lost and in dire need of your saving grace. May your love and compassion for the world be the motivation that encourages me to be a lighthouse and a lightship at the same time. In Jesus’ name I pray, amen. 

SCRIPTURE REFERENCES

“How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them?” – Romans 10:14
“If you pour yourself out for the hungry and satisfy the desire of the afflicted, then shall your light rise in the darkness and your gloom be as the noonday.” -Isaiah 58:10 (ESV)
“Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction.” -James 1:27 (ESV)
“Let each of you look not only to his own interests but also to the interests of others.” -Philippians 2:4  (ESV)
“We who are strong have an obligation to bear with the failings of the weak, and not to please ourselves.” -Romans 15:1 (ESV) 
-ALL SCRIPTURE IS QUOTED FROM THE NIV EXCEPT WHERE SPECIFIED.
Photo Credits:
Calshot Spit Lightship Photo by Paul Dashwood 1997
Lightship LV86, stationed at The Nore, in Kent county, Eng., from 1931 to 1974. K.Krallis SV1XV

Our Volunteer Caretaker

This is the Point Iroquois Light. Built in 1870, it stands 65 ft. tall and is located in the upper peninsula of the state of Michigan overlooking Lake Superior. It was deactivated in 1962 after safely guiding ships between the open waters of Whitefish Bay and the St. Mary’s River for 93 years. This non-operational tower is currently maintained by the United States Forest Service.

Due to advances in lighting technology and navigational systems, very few lighthouses require the constant care of the once indispensable lighthouse keeper. However, in order to remain standing and accessible, most of these historical icons require some degree of maintenance. The U.S. Forest Service recently published an ad soliciting volunteer lighthouse caretakers for the Point Iroquois Light. Applicants must be willing to reside in the lighthouse and commit to one year of service. If I were a wealthy or retired bachelor I would most definitely be interested in the job. Are you? If you are, here is the link https://www.volunteer.gov/results.cfm?ID=15375.

According to the dictionary, a volunteer is a person who performs a service willingly and without pay. To volunteer is to offer oneself for some service or undertaking without expecting any form of compensation (payment). Jesus voluntarily gave up his life in order to grant us eternal life with Him in heaven. He willfully performed the greatest act of love imaginable. He offered himself as a payment to set us free from the penalty of sin (eternal damnation) and bring us back into a right relationship with God. 

We are God’s lighthouses and Jesus is our volunteer caretaker. Not only did He willingly lay down his life for us, but He continues to care for us by providing us with sustenance, protection, people who love us, and more importantly, access to His very throne of grace through prayer. Unlike the volunteers of the Point Iroquois Light, Jesus has promised to be with us always. His commitment is not just for a year but for all eternity! And while our outer body wastes away, he takes care of our inner being by renewing our faith through the power of His word and devotions like this one. 

I may not be able to volunteer as a Point Iroquois Lighthouse caretaker, but I sure am grateful to have Jesus as the volunteer caretaker of my lighthouse! Are you?

Prayer: Thank you Jesus, for willingly and willfully paying for my sins. Thank you for your promise to never leave me or forsake me. And thank you for faithfully taking care of all my needs. May my life reflect the gratitude for having you as the caretaker of my soul. Help me to care for others as you care for me. In your precious name I pray, amen. 

“…I lay down My life in order to take it up again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down and authority to take it up again..” – John 10:18
“For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” – Mark 10:45
“He tends his flock like a shepherd: He gathers the lambs in his arms and carries them close to his heart; he gently leads those that have young.” -Isaiah 40:11
“…And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” – Matthew 28:20b
The Lord Takes Cares of His People – Psalm 16
-ALL SCRIPTURE IS QUOTED FROM THE NIV EXCEPT WHERE SPECIFIED.
Photo Credit
Point Iroquois Lighthouse photo by Chad Kaiser, 2008

Landmarks of Peace

“As a new ‘House of Wisdom,’ the University shall be a beacon for peace, hope, and reconciliation…” -King Abdullah

 “I’m leaving you peace. I’m giving you my peace. I don’t give you the kind of peace that the world gives. So don’t be troubled or cowardly. – Jesus, the King of kings

Lighthouses have come a long way. From torches and lanterns hanging on wooden and metal poles to solar powered bulbs shining from within concrete and granite towers. While many of the 19th-century style lighthouses are still standing, advances in technology and civil engineering have inspired quite a few modern versions of these sentinels of the sea. One simple Google search using the words “modern lighthouses” will return images of some pretty incredible and awe inspiring structures. Take the one pictured above for example. Though it retains the conical shape of typical lighthouses this 21st-century beacon is nothing short of a futuristic work of art.

Built in 2009, this 197 ft. honeycomb obelisk is made from pre-cast hexagonal concrete blocks.  It is known as the KAUST Breakwater Beacon and it overlooks the Safaa Harbor and the Red Sea, in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. Its architectural design is truly impressive. During the day, it serves as a natural-cooled space for communal events. At night, the entire tower lights up and serves as a guide to mariners, not to mention a focal point for an incredible nocturnal scenic view. 

This remarkable beacon was built as a landmark for the new King Abdullah University of Science and Technology, which according to King Abdullah, “…shall be a beacon for peace, hope, and reconciliation [to the world]…” 

While this amazing structure and the university it represents may be of inspiration to many, the peace, hope, and reconciliation that the world so desperately needs will never be found in anything tangible, let alone in the promises of intellectual abilities. That’s because true peace is not of this world.¹

We are living in a time where “peace” has become synonymous with organizations and movements whose ideals are in constant conflict with the (true) peace that goes beyond human understanding; the peace of God.2   The increasing political, economic, social, and religious tensions we are witnessing, in spite of all the peace efforts, are a direct consequence of people putting their trust in anything and everything other than the Prince of Peace himself, our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. The peace that Jesus offers is an illogical concept to a world that considers peace to mean freedom from conflict. 

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Until God finally judges all mankind and the earth is physically redeemed, the forces of darkness will continue to operate in this world.That is why Jesus himself warned us of the inevitable conflicts/challenges we will face while we wait for that glorious day. But He also encouraged us by telling us to “take heart” (i.e. remain at peace) and trust Him to help us overcome the same way he overcame.4 We have to understand that to have peace doesn’t always mean you have to eliminate conflict or prevent it from occurring. We can experience the true peace of God even in the midst of adversity. That’s because His peace can supernaturally guard our hearts and minds5 so that we are not controlled by our circumstances, but rather control the way we react to them. However, in order to experience this kind of peace we need to intimately know Him whom we have believed in. We need to know who we truly are in Christ Jesus and not just say that we believe in Him but put that faith in action by living in obedience to His word.

As lighthouses for God, we can also become true Landmarks of Peace. Here are a few things the Bible says that can help us:

We are to be peacemakers.

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If we consider ourselves to be children of God then we are to be peacemakers. In other words, people who help restore peace and amity. We should not only proclaim the Gospel of peace but also live it, especially in these times where political differences are tearing our nations apart. We are to serve as arbitrators and not instigators. Perhaps this will require for some of us to think twice before we comment on hot topics, especially on social media. Ouch!

We are to strive to be a peaceful people.

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It may be difficult at times to avoid confrontations, but we must do whatever it takes to quench the flames of enmity. Even if it means to swallow our pride, keep our mouths shut and turn away. Taking this approach should not be considered as a sign of weakness, but rather of wisdom and mature spiritual character. Nothing testifies louder about the peace of God than when His children live in and at peace with everyone. Yes, even their enemies. 

We must surrender our hearts to the peace of God.

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It’s easier to respond with animosity, pride, and even apathy than with forgiveness, humbleness, and genuine concern. But as believers, we need to keep in mind that we are all part of one big family; the family of God. Therefore, we must allow His peace to reign in our hearts and learn to truly love one another in spite of our differences. Only then can the world witness the true power of God’s transforming grace.  

Living in peace brings great pleasure to the soul.

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Every now and then we all experience a difficult time in life. But even in the midst of our challenges we can reflect the light of Christ and serve as a model for overcoming strife and contention. In doing so, we take the focus off ourselves while encouraging and blessing others. The reward is a heart full of God’s joy; a joy which in turn becomes our strength.  

Trusting God guarantees us peace of mind.

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But can we actually live every single day of our lives in peace? Well, that depends on what you mean. If you mean stress-free, worry-free, and conflict-free, the answer is no (John 16:33). But if you mean at peace in the midst of life’s many challenges then the answer is yes! God has promised to guard us with His peace in every situation. However, the key to experiencing that peace is to keep our hearts and minds focused on Him and not on our circumstances. 

Prayer: Lord, make me a landmark of your peace. Don’t allow my heart to be hardened and much less become apathetic to the hostility in this world; a world that is just reacting to the emptiness in their soul. An emptiness that only you can fill. So, use me even in the midst of my own challenges so that I may be able to reflect your light. The light that this world needs to experience true peace. In Jesus precious and peaceful name I pray, amen. 

SCRIPTURE REFERENCES
1- “I’m leaving you peace. I’m giving you my peace. I don’t give you the kind of peace that the world gives. So don’t be troubled or cowardly.” – John 14:27 (GWT)
2- “And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” – Philippians 4:7
3 – “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.” – Ephesians 6:12
4 – “I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.” – John 16:33
5 – “And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” – Philippians 4:7
-ALL SCRIPTURE IS QUOTED FROM THE NIV EXCEPT WHERE SPECIFIED.

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